As any parent will tell you, there’s always something to worry about. You think you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief once you’ve made it through pregnancy and birth, but not so. Instead, you’ll find yourself wondering whether everything is ok – whether your baby is developing normally.
She looks fine, but how can you be sure? What if something is wrong and you just can’t tell? First, this is a completely normal fear for any new parent. Second, while they’re not a 100% guarantee, here are a few things to consider that will help put your mind at rest.
1Regular medical checks
New babies are given regular medical checks to make sure they are physically healthy. You’ll also be asked about things like feeding and sleep patterns, which will help confirm all is well. These checks continue for the first few years of your child’s life and are also an opportunity for you to mention anything that concerns you.
Your baby will be weighed and measured regularly, and the results plotted on a centile chart. These are based on the development of an average baby. If yours is slightly above or below, it’s usually nothing to worry about. Any extreme results or sudden changes will alert your doctor of a potential problem so they can arrange for further tests.
2Baby’s reaction to mum
Babies cry a lot, especially in the early months. While there’s no switch to instantly turn off the tears, their mother’s voice will usually help calm them. After all, that was the soundtrack to their nine months in the womb. Hearing her, and being cuddled close to her, is immensely comforting. If your baby reacts to mum’s presence, it’s a sign of bonding – his emotions are developing normally.
3Lots of wet nappies
One of the biggest worries for new parents is whether their baby is getting enough milk. This can be a particular concern if you are breastfeeding, as you can’t see exactly how much is being taken. Instead of focusing on fluid ounces or millilitres, keep an eye on how many wet nappies your baby produces each day. Nine or ten for a new baby is average.
Of course, regular weight increases are another sign your baby is growing well. Babies can lose 5%-10% of their birthweight in the first week but soon regain it. This will be monitored at your baby’s health checks and should reassure you.
4The quiet times
The first few weeks will pass in a blur of feeds, nappy changing, crying and obsessing about lost sleep. Adorable though new babies are, there’s not a lot else going on in their world at that stage. After the first month, though, you should notice your baby starts to have some quiet times, when she is interested and attentive to what’s going on around her.
She is starting to process everything she sees and hears and learn about the world. As a result, she’ll have periods when she’s quiet and alert as her brain soaks it all up.
5Responding to sounds
Although babies can hear from birth, it’s a few weeks before they’re able to start making out and reacting to different sounds. To begin with, it’s all just one big blur. After a while, they’ll begin to pick out individual sounds. A dog barking outside or the television in the background won’t necessarily grab their attention, but the sudden ring of a phone or hearing someone they know laugh or speak will. Most babies love listening to music, too. It’s reassuring for you as a parent to know your child’s hearing is developing normally.
6Showing an interest
As your baby’s eyesight gets sharper, you’ll notice him paying more attention to different colours, movement and patterns. When he’s born, he can only see around 20-30cms (8-12 inches) away. For reference, that’s roughly the distance between his face and yours when he’s feeding. After the first month, it’s around 50cm (18 inches), and by eight weeks he can see patterns, bright colours and movement – such as a mobile turning above him. It takes a while for babies to develop more refined colour vision, which is why they tend to prefer contrasting shades.
As well as being precious milestones, it can be a relief when your baby starts making eye contact and smiling. As an anxious new parent, it gives you an extra measure of her emotions and mood. If she’s smiling, cooing and engaging with you and others, it shows she’s becoming socially aware. It’s also an indication that her language skills are developing – babies use body language long before they can talk.
Once you’re out of the newborn haze, you should also notice a more settled sleep pattern emerging. Your baby will go longer between feeds at night and he’ll start to have more defined waking and napping periods during the day. There’s no set timetable and we can’t promise you’ll get an undisturbed night’s sleep by six months, or even a year. But if all is going well, there’ll at least be a more reasonable routine.